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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.

Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. It strengthens the ties between nations and societies, and mobilizes the wider public so that each child and citizen:

• has access to quality education; a basic human right and an indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development;

• may grow and live in a cultural environment rich in diversity and dialogue, where heritage serves as a bridge between generations and peoples;

• can fully benefit from scientific advances;

• and can enjoy full freedom of expression; the basis of democracy, development and human dignity.


UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.

Man and the Biosphere Programme

In 1968, UNESCO organized the first intergovernmental conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, a problem which continues to be addressed in the field of sustainable development. The main outcome of the 1968 conference was the creation of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.

By focusing on sites internationally recognized within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the MAB Programme strives to:

  • identify and assess the changes in the biosphere resulting from human and natural activities and the effects of these changes on humans and the environment, in particular in the context of climate change;
  • study and compare the dynamic interrelationships between natural/near-natural ecosystems and socio-economic processes, in particular in the context of accelerated loss of biological and cultural diversity with unexpected consequences that impact the ability of ecosystems to continue to provide services critical for human well-being;
  • ensure basic human welfare and a liveable environment in the context of rapid urbanization and energy consumption as drivers of environmental change;
  • promote the exchange and transfer of knowledge on environmental problems and solutions, and to foster environmental education for sustainable developmen

MacBride report (named after the Chair of the Commission, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Seán MacBride)

Many Voices One World, also known as the MacBride report, was a 1981 UNESCO publication written by the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems, chaired by Irish Nobel laureate Seán MacBride. Its aim was to analyze communication problems in modern societies, particularly relating to mass media and news, consider the emergence of new technologies, and to suggest a kind of communication order (New World Information and Communication Order) to diminish these problems to further peace and human development.

UPSC Mains Question Paper 2, 2016 – What are the aims and objectives of the McBride Commission of the UNESCO? What is India’s position on these?

New World Information and Communication Order

The New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO or NWIO) aka the MacBride Commission is a term that was coined in a debate over media representations of the developing world in UNESCO in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The term was widely used by the MacBride Commission, a UNESCO panel chaired by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Sean MacBride, which was charged with creation of a set of recommendations to make global media representation more equitable. The MacBride Commission produced a report titled “Many Voices, One World”, which outlined the main philosophical points of the New World Information Communication Order.

 A wide range of issues were raised as part of NWICO discussions. Some of these involved long-standing issues of media coverage of the developing world and unbalanced flows of media influence. But other issues involved new technologies with important military and commercial uses. The developing world was likely to be marginalized by satellite and computer technologies. The issues included:

  • At the time four major news agencies controlled over 80% of global news flow.
  • An unbalanced flow of mass media from the developed world (especially the United States) to the underdeveloped countries. Everyone watches American movies and television shows.
  • Advertising agencies in the developed world have indirect but significant effects on mass media in the developing countries. Some observers also judged the messages of these ads to be inappropriate for the Third World.
  • An unfair division of the radio spectrum. A small number of developed countries controlled almost 90% of the radio spectrum. Much of this was for military use.
  • There were similar concerns about the allocation of the geostationary orbit (parking spots in space) for satellites. At the time only a small number of developed countries had satellites and it was not possible for developing countries to be allocated a space that they might need ten years later. This might mean eventually getting a space that was more difficult and more expensive to operate.
  • Satellite broadcasting of television signals into developing countries without prior permission was widely perceived as a threat to national sovereignty. The UN voted in the early 1970s against such broadcasts.
  • Use of satellites to collect information on crops and natural resources in the Third World at a time when most developing countries lacked the capacity to analyze this data.
  • At the time most mainframe computers were located in the United States and there were concerns about the location of databases (such as airline reservations) and the difficulty of developing countries catching up with the US lead in computers.
  • The protection of journalists from violence was raised as an issue for discussion. For example, journalists were targeted by various military dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s. As part of NWICO debates there were suggestions for study on how to protect journalists and even to discipline journalists who broke “generally recognized ethical standards”. However, the MacBride Commission specifically came out against the idea of licensing journalists.

World Heritage Committee

UNESCO’s early activities in culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960. The purpose of the campaign was to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel to keep it from being swamped by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam.

During the 20-year campaign, 22 monuments and architectural complexes were relocated. This was the first and largest in a series of campaigns including Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), Fes (Morocco), Kathmandu (Nepal), Borobudur (Indonesia) and the Acropolis (Greece).

The organization’s work on heritage led to the adoption, in 1972, of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. Since then important legal instruments on cultural heritage and diversity have been adopted by UNESCO member states in 2003 (Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage)and 2005 (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions)


An intergovernmental meeting of UNESCO in Paris in December 1951 led to the creation of the European Council for Nuclear Research, which was responsible for establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 1954.


Education for All Global Monitoring Report-  

Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, UNESCO, whose principal role is to monitor progress towards the education targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.


The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network, or ASPNet for short, is a programme established in 1953 to encourage schools worldwide to educate students on issues related to UNESCO’s “overarching goal of promoting peace and international understanding”. As of 2008, it includes nearly eight thousand educational institutions in over 170 countries. ASPnet schools conduct their own projects, often linking with schools from other countries, or may become involved in a UNESCO-coordinated activity, such as the “World Heritage in Young Hands” project. A national coordinator, typically housed at the National Commission, serves as the liaison between the schools and UNESCO.

Migration Museums Initiative: Promoting the establishment of museums for cultural dialogue with migrant populations.

OANA, Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies

The Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) is an association of news agencies from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) member states in the Asia-Pacific region.It was formed in 1961 on UNESCO’s initiative. It provides a news wire service containing articles donated by its members.

Asian News International (You might have seen ANI in various news publication)-The Asian News International (ANI) is an Indian news agency based in New Delhi that provides multimedia news to 50 bureaus in India and most of South Asia.

International Council for Science

 It receives its funding from UNESCO. It is an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the advancement of science. Its members are national scientific bodies and international scientific unions.

ASOMPS – Asian Symposium on Medicinal Plants, Spices and Other Natural Products

It is a series of scientific conferences held in Asia at different locations. ASOMPS promotes collaboration and co-operation between Asian scientists in the fields of chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacy, biochemistry, botany, and biotechnology and their research on natural products.

Botany 2000

Botany 2000 is the name for a scientific program, organized under the auspices of UNESCO. Botany 2000 is composed of activities in Asia and Africa. Activities in Europe are confined to support of herbaria in countries in transition and reconstruction e.g. Georgia.
Botany 2000-Asia is implemented by UNESCO’s New Delhi Office and focuses on the taxonomy, and biological and cultural diversity of medicinal and ornamental plants, and their protection against environmental pollution, as well as ethnobiological classification and biological systematics and the correct documentation of useful plants through collection of voucher specimens.

GoUNESCO – Make Heritage Fun!

GoUNESCO is an umbrella of initiatives that help promote awareness of and provide tools for laypersons to engage with heritage. GoUNESCO was created by Ajay Reddy in 2012. It is supported by UNESCO, New Delhi.

 International Hydrological Programme (IHP)

The International Hydrological Programme (IHP) is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN system devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity building.

International Geoscience Programme (IGCP)

The International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGCP) is a cooperative enterprise of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).
The aim of the IGCP is to facilitate research cooperation among geoscientists across frontiers and national boundaries, through joint research work, meetings and workshops. At the present time IGCP has about 400 active projects involving thousands of scientists from about 150 countries

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) promotes international cooperation and coordinates programmes in marine research, services, observation systems, hazard mitigation, and capacity development in order to understand and effectively manage the resources of the ocean and coastal areas.

UNESCO awards 22 prizes in education, science, culture and peace: Few Important ones related to India are-

  1. UNESCO/Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science
  2. UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence


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